It’s been a rough year for DVDs and Blu-Rays.
Over the years, mass viewer migration to streaming services has sent physical disc sales into a downward spiral. In August, trade association DEG: Digital Entertainment Group reported that U.S. physical media revenue fell from $1.5 billion in the first half of 2022 to $754 million in the first half of 2023 — about a 28% drop. In 2021, DVD purchases made up about 7% of the global home entertainment market in 2021, dwarfed by digital video’s 70%, according to Wired.
The latest signal of physical media’s decline came last week, when retail giant Best Buy confirmed it would stop selling DVDs and Blu-Rays in the first quarter of 2024. The store has been phasing out physical discs and could also stop selling them online.
“To state the obvious, the way we watch movies and TV shows is much different today than it was decades ago,” a Best Buy spokesperson said in a statement to Variety last week.
The trend raises the inevitable question of how long physical media has before it heads the way of VHS tapes, floppy discs and other outdated media. With streaming apps firmly established in a majority of households, it’s not likely that DVDs an Blu-Rays will make any kind of comeback.
After all, more companies are moving away from physical discs. Blu-Rays still attract collectors and fans of high-quality 4K but DVDs are increasingly losing any appeal to most Americans. Once upon a time, Netflix operated as a mail-based rental business before transitioning to streaming. For the last few years, Netflix’s DVD service continued to quietly run under the name DVD.com. At the end of September, Netflix mailed its final red envelope after announcing plans to retire its physical disc service in April.
Before Netflix officially pulled the plug on its DVD business, Ingram Entertainment, one of the largest distributors of DVDs and Blu-Rays, said it plans to stop selling physical discs.
“Expenses are exceeding sales [so it’s] time to exit,” Ingram Chairman and CEO David Ingram said in September.
Ingram Entertainment’s exit plans came alongside news that Walmart considering taking over management of Studio Distribution Services (SDS), which handles the distribution of physical media. Walmart’s DVD and Blu-Ray sales make up almost 50% of the market, according to Media Play News. With Best Buy retiring its physical media sales and rumors also circulating about Target, Walmart and Amazon are some of the last places customers can buy DVDs, Blu-Rays and 4K Ultra HD discs.
Disney has also indicated it’s moving away from physical media after ceasing disc sales in Australia. The company still released Blu-Ray and 4K Ultra HD discs for Disney+ original Loki last month, with The Mandalorian coming in December. Netflix also occasionally releases physical copies of popular shows. The Sandman will be available in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on November 28 after a digital release on September 18.
The media industry as a whole has struggled this year. Over the last few years, monthly spending on streaming subscriptions has declined 25% from $90 in 2021 to $73 in 2023 as more households adjust budgets in response to rising inflation. In addition, the Hollywood writers and actors strikes — the former of which has been resolved — brought the entertainment industry to a screeching halt.
Physical discs are holding on for now, but it’s possible the future might see DVDs following the path of VHS tapes.